You slowly awake, gradually becoming aware of the ache of your body. And
it is hot; hot and dry. You open your eyes, but immediately know that is a
mistake as harsh light stabs into the depths of your skull. You squeeze
your eyes shut.
|Artwork © Ulysses Ai|
You feel someone step close to you. "You all right now?" he asks.
Unable to answer, you nod, and whoever it is moves on. You lie still,
letting your other senses tell you about the surroundings. You are lying
against something soft, but are propped up crookedly like a discarded
keepsake. The intense heat makes you sweat profusely, your clothes
already wet with perspiration. Occasionally the wind sends a hot gust
washing over you, flinging grit against your face, sand rattling over hard
You are outside... but how? The last thing you recall, you were
travelling through space, on your way home after fulfilling your
contractual obligation to the Treemaids. You test your arms and legs,
finding you can move. You seem fine except for a bruised chest.
Carefully, you open your eyes again. Squinting, you see a bright orange
and black landscape of broken rocks extending to the horizon. Around you
are the shattered remains of a ship's hull. Orange... An image flashes
into your memory. A glimpse of an arid orange planet as the luxury
transport tumbled helplessly through space, falling... As you lie there,
you start to remember...
...after helping the treemaids once again, they gladly paid for your
passage on a luxury transport ship back to Amorphonon 12. While nothing
like the splendour of the Attila the Hon, it was nonetheless very easy to
...suddenly there was a shudder and the whole ship vibrated. You felt
queasy as the world warped and buckled before snapping back into
normality. A woman nearby vomited, while everyone started to mutter in
confusion and alarm. "We've dropped back into normal space," one man
...everyone seemed to calm down. But not you. You have travelled in space
long enough to know that that was a very abrupt transition from hyperspace.
They must have turned off the hyperdrive to jerk the ship out of hyperspace
as quickly as possible. The only reason why they would do that would be if
there were an emergency of some sort. Remembering what happened one other
time you were in hyperspace, you think you know what it is. They must have
spotted the hypertrout bearing down on them and cut power to the hyperdrive
to drop out of hyperspace as quickly as possible to avoid being devoured.
The ship's captain suddenly makes an announcement. "Ladies and Gentlemen.
We were forced to drop out of hyperspace due to a... incident that has now
been resolved. We apologise for the rough ride, and will be resuming
travel as soon as possible. We will remain in normal space for the next
two hours, so please enjoy the view...
...Lights started flashing orange, indicating a mild alert. But the
interior of the ship seemed to take things more seriously as all hard
surfaces retracted and air bags inflated to turn the interior of the ship
into a soft capsule, as if expecting an impact...
...and here you are, crashed on the planet. You must have gone to an
escape pod. There is no way anyone could have survived a ship falling from
You slowly get up, feeling unsteady on your feet. You are very thirsty,
and wonder how long you have been out. Someone hands you a bottle of
water, and you take it gratefully. It is one of the crew. But before you
have drunk your fill, he takes the bottle back; gently, but firmly.
"Good to see you are on your feet," he says. He is a young man, not much
older than you. "All of our supplies are rationed. We have sent out a
distress call, but we don't know when help will come, or if they will be
able to approach the planet safely."
"What happened?" you ask, your voice a croak.
"Some force grabbed the ship, dragged it down to the planet. We couldn't
escape. We evacuated the ship, and the escape pods brought us here. But
now we are stuck here."
"Where's here?" you ask.
The crewman shrugs. "I don't know. The hyperspace jump should have taken
us across the Quarantine Expanse. We must be somewhere in the middle of
He moves on, and you stare at the dead land before you with trepidation.
The Quarantine Expanse is an empty, featureless part of the galaxy, notable
only for having a name. No one knows why it was called this, but a barren
planet in an empty region of space is a good place to send the incurable
You wonder how long you will have to wait here until help comes. And if
anyone does come, will they suffer the same fate?